Authorizes the state to issue $8.9 billion in general obligation bonds for water supply, environmental and infrastructure investments.
What the Measure Would Do
California Proposition 3 would authorize the state to issue $8.87 billion in general obligation bonds for water supply, conservation, infrastructure and environmental improvement projects all over the state. More specifically, it would fund safe drinking water, the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, watershed and wetland restoration, habitat conservation, urban and agricultural water conservation and stormwater management.
Prop. 3 would dedicate funding to numerous state agencies, including the California Natural Resources Agency, the Coastal Conservancy, the Department of Water Resources and the University of California. The state resources agency would be responsible for regular public reporting and independent audits.
Prop. 3 is intended to complement other state water and parks bond funds that have passed recently, including Prop. 68, which passed in June of this year, and Prop. 1, which passed in 2014. It would fund many elements of Governor Brown’s 2013 Water Action Plan, which aims to increase the resiliency of California’s water system and strengthen the ability of California communities to cope with drought conditions.
This measure was put on the ballot by a signature campaign. It was written and sponsored by the director of the Natural Heritage Institute’s California Water Program (who was formerly the deputy secretary of the resources agency). Prop. 3’s proponents had originally tried to get some of its biggest-ticket items — including safe drinking water, dam safety and fixing ground subsidence in the Central Valley — included in Prop. 68. But the legislature’s negotiations around Prop. 68 resulted in a smaller bond dedicated partially to water infrastructure and partially to parks. Proponents then collected signatures to place this larger bond on the ballot.
As a state general obligation bond, this measure needs a simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) to pass.
- This measure would provide significant funding for water infrastructure and reliability in California at a time when the state is drought-stressed and when local governments need additional resources to support implementation of new policies like the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
- This measure would support better equity in California’s water system by providing $750 million for safe drinking water and wastewater treatment for disadvantaged communities and by waiving matching fund requirements in disadvantaged communities.
- This measure would accelerate restoration of the natural environment, such as wetlands in San Francisco Bay, to support ecological resilience to climate change. For example, Prop. 3 includes $200 million for the Bay, complementing the $500 million over 20 years raised through 2016’s Measure AA, the nine-county parcel tax passed by voters in June 2016 for Bay restoration.
- This measure could increase California’s available water supply by more than 1.5 million acre-feet, enough to supply 3 million homes, by investing in water conservation and recycling, watershed restoration and land management for water yield.
- This measure did not go through the normal legislative process and is not the byproduct of consensus among elected officials. Therefore, it may contain provisions that support special interests based on their involvement with the measure, rather than supporting the public interest.
- This is a very large bond that would add to the indebtedness of the General Fund by $400 million annually, which could result in other programs being cut to pay for this debt.
Bonds are one of the main ways the state can invest in water infrastructure, and our recent drought has shown the need for significant investment. Although we just passed Prop. 68 earlier this year, these two measures are complementary and fund different aspects of the state’s water needs. Prop. 3 would directly benefit the Bay Area through funding for water recycling, conservation and San Francisco Bay restoration — which is critically important to do now before sea levels rise or our next long-term drought settles in.